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Leece withdraws Banning Ranch developer request

The Costa Mesa City Council also names Jeff Mathews to the Planning Commission and approves new bicycle laws.

August 08, 2012|By Joseph Serna

Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece withdrew her request Tuesday for the council to reexamine the city's agreement with the developer of Banning Ranch.

She said Newport Banning Ranch LLC, or NBR, asked her to do so until it could review the agreement, which the council approved and modified last month.

The $4.4-million agreement would pay for street improvements the city needs to handle the proposed residential and commercial development's predicted traffic influx. Located adjacent to Costa Mesa in Newport Beach, the development still requires California Coastal Commission approval.

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NBR would have to approve the modified version of the agreement.

Leece said NBR's request was only part of the reason for the withdrawal.

On Aug. 1 she wrote a letter to the state Fair Political Practices Commission requesting a legal opinion on whether her proximity to the 401-acre development — she lives within 500 feet of it — posed a conflict of interest.

The FPPC could take up to 21 business days to give an answer, she said.

Leece was on the losing end of the 4-1 vote that approved the agreement July 17.

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Mathews appointed to Planning Commission

The council voted 4 to 1 to appoint Parks and Recreation Commissioner Jeff Mathews to the Planning Commission.

Leece opposed the appointment because Mathews is considering a run for the Costa Mesa Sanitary District.

Mathews donated to Councilman Steve Mensinger's reelection campaign in June, public records show.

Mathews replaces Jim Fitzpatrick, who resigned from the Planning Commission after his fellow Sanitary District board members felt he had a conflict of interest by serving on both boards.

Mathews said he will decide by Friday if he'll run for the Sanitary District. If elected to the Sanitary District, and if a court rules one official can't serve both boards, he would resign from the Planning Commission, he said.

The Planning Commission term is expected to end in February 2015.

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Bicycle Ordinance

In other action, the council approved an ordinance that would prohibit bicycles from being parked or tied up to public property outside of a bicycle rack.

City staff is examining how many bike racks Costa Mesa needs for residents, and then would have to figure out where to put them.

After that, the city would have to determine how much the racks would cost and if they could get grant money to buy them.

"We will not be enforcing this ordinance until these racks are in place," said Muriel Ullman, neighborhood improvement manager.

Residents suggested that the ordinance simply ban bikes from obstructing the right of way, but officials said the bicycle problem is bigger than that. In some parks, such as Lions Park, homeless and others group their bikes together and stack them with their belongings, which creates a "visual blight," Ullman said.

The council voted 4 to 1 to approve the ordinance, with Mayor Eric Bever dissenting. He said he opposed it because it limits the liberties of residents.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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